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Center for Action and Contemplation
Life in the Spirit
Life in the Spirit

Transforming Spirit

Friday, May 24, 2024

Father Richard reflects on how the Spirit’s presence can transform our lives and institutions:  

Without a conscious living in the flow of the Spirit—through us, within us, and for us—and those are the three movements—I think prayer can become merely functional. But if we live within that flow, prayer can become an experience of mystical communion. There is no problem to be solved; it’s simply enjoying what is, learning how to taste it, learning how to receive it, learning how to see God in it, and knowing that this now—whatever it is—is enough.    

When that flow is not there, church becomes overly problem-solving and practical. Sacraments without the Spirit become strategic. They become something we feel obligated to attend or belong to in order to go to heaven. Church becomes about paying fire insurance dues. We don’t really want to be there, but we go along for the ride in case the whole thing just happens to be true. I know this might be shocking to say and hear, but this kind of church deserves to die. There’s no life to it; there’s no future to it. It is not of the Spirit. It is precisely a blocking of the Spirit, but it’s disguised as if it’s spiritual.    

Outside of the Spirit, reading the Bible can also become nothing more than ego ammunition. Without the Spirit, Bible study does not lead to divine intimacy and union; rather, it can lead to self-sufficiency and confirmation about why we’re right. Instead of leading us to God, it becomes a way for us to protect ourselves and to judge and diminish other people. But when we read the scriptures inside of the energy and flow of the Spirit, the stories themselves reveal a thousand confirmations of that very pattern—people allowing the flow, people resisting and opposing the flow, and sometimes, finally being swept up by it. They become models for us that allowing the flow of the Spirit leads to new life.  

Outside of the Spirit, authority becomes domination. Inside of the Spirit, authority becomes service. Outside of the Spirit, politics becomes control. Inside of the Spirit, leadership is something we know is given to us to offer to others: not authority over people but authority to call forth the presence of God within so they can be in the same flow and enjoy the same freedom. 

I think the simplest way to discern the presence of the Spirit is to look for where there is unity, where there’s movement toward reconciliation, for two becoming one, for enemies becoming friends. The Spirit self has no need to think of itself as better than anyone. We just live with an energy and aliveness that Paul called the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22–23). Our job is simply to stay inside the flow of the Spirit which is love.  

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Divine Dance: Exploring the Mystery of Trinity (Albuquerque, NM: Center for Action and Contemplation, 2004). Available as MP3 audio download.   

Image credit and inspiration: Tim Zänkert, body of water (detail), 2017, photo, Unsplash. Click here to enlarge image. Like sunlight on water, we cannot grasp or clutch Spirit, but its beauty is with us all the same. 

Story from Our Community:  

I’m so grateful that CAC is focusing on the natural world in the Daily Meditations. Sometimes, I feel frightened by how many humans seem to disregard God’s creation and prefer the artificial environments created by humans. For me, it is only when I am in a natural space that I really feel God’s presence and feel my spirits lifted. I believe if Jesus had lived through these times, he would be speaking out for the protection of the environment and other species. He is there weeping for the thousands of humans and non-humans who are suffering, and some dying, from climate change across the world—from India to California.
—Susan B. 

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